Cat Rabies – What Is It?
Rabies is a serious viral disease.
It can infect any warm-blooded animal. This includes cats, dogs and people.
In the United States, rabies is reported in cats more than any other domestic species.
It affects the brain and spinal cord of its victim. And it’s often fatal.
Rabies occurs in most countries. Some lucky countries are rabies-free.
In the US, every state but Hawaii sees cases of it.
How is Cat Rabies Transmitted?
The rabies virus exists inside a mammal’s body. It doesn’t survive long outside it.
Transmission of the virus occurs when an infected animal bites another mammal and the infected animal’s saliva is introduced through the bite wound under the skin of the bitten.
The main source of infected animals include foxes, raccoons, skunks, bats and wild, stray, unvaccinated dogs or feral cats.
Unvaccinated cats who roam outside and might be exposed to these types of wild animals are most at risk.
Symptoms and Signs of Cat Rabies
The symptoms of cat rabies can vary and they will depend on what stage your cat is in.
Most cats will not show signs immediately, it will take time.
Most cats will also not be infectious themselves at first either.
Common Signs of Rabies Virus Infection Include:
- An increase in meowing
- Loss of appetite
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive drooling
- More restless
- More lethargic or suddenly shy
- More aggressive or agitated
- Increasingly nervous or irritable or excited
- Apparent weakness
- Seems disoriented
- Experiencing seizures
- Appears somewhat paralyzed
- Eventually enters into a coma
There is an incubation period from when the bite occurs to when the infected animal begins to show symptoms.
Incubation times vary and can even extend to almost one year, but from two weeks to eight weeks is common.
Signs seem to show up slower in bites that are less severe, when less saliva is released into the wound, and depending upon where the wound is.
But once signs start to occur, the virus can move fast. A kitty can die within two weeks of first showing signs.
Diagnosis of Cat Rabies
Diagnosing rabies cannot occur in a live animal. There is no good test your vet can run on a live animal.
This is because the only good diagnostic test is done on the animal’s brain.
Cat Rabies Prevention
Preventing your pet from getting this virus is fairly simple — keep her vaccinated and away from wild animals.
Both of these steps are easy to do.
In some areas, rabies vaccinations are mandatory for your kitty; in other places it is just highly recommended.
If you let your pet outdoors, you really need to have him vaccinated. It not only protects his health, but if he were to bite someone, you will need to prove that he has a current vaccination, otherwise he could be quarantined or put down and tested.
Many owners simply never let their cat outside.
For those owners, this settles the issue.
Feline Rabies Treatment
What is the treatment for rabies?
The bad news is there is no accepted treatment and no real cure for rabies once symptoms appear. And the disease will result in death.
If rabies is suspected, your kitty has to be placed in quarantine.
Your veterinarian’s office will have to notify the animal disease regulatory authority.
Cat Rabies Post-Bite Treatments
In theory, you can treat a bitten and potentially exposed cat with a post-bite vaccination if that cat has not been previously vaccinated.
If this post-bite, anti-rabies serum vaccination is given early enough, it could interrupt the progression of the rabies virus.
This serum, if taken right away, could stimulate the bitten cat to begin developing antibodies to the rabies virus.
But it’s risky.
Because there is no way to test to see if a live animal has or doesn’t have rabies, there is no way to tell if a post-bite vaccination series worked or not.
So while you think your kitty is fine, he could still be carrying the rabies virus and could infect you or a family member. It’s too risky.
If there is a strong probability that your pet has been exposed through a bite, you can either strictly quarantine her for several months, or you may opt to euthanize her. Both are horrible choices. But there is no good path.
Cat Rabies Vaccines
Most states require rabies vaccinations. They are regularly given to kittens usually at three to four months of age.
And revaccination will be recommended at specific times in a cat’s life too.
Should My Cat Be Vaccinated?
Yes. Vaccinations work. They’re important.
Rabies vaccines are safe. But as with any type of vaccine, a pet may show some type of allergic reaction.
If your cat shows some pronounced sign after getting his shot, such as breathing difficulties or something else that looks serious, this could be an allergic reaction that you should call your veterinarian about.
What to Do
Here’s what to do if you come in contact with a potentially rabid animal.
Stay back from any suspicious animal. This includes a strange dog or cat that is acting unusually or any wild animal.
Protect you and your pet from getting bitten or scratched.
Don’t try to capture or touch an animal that is acting strangely or unusually.
If you think you got bitten, see a doctor right away.
If you think your pet got bit, call your veterinarian.
Contact your local animal control department regarding the animal that bit you or your pet. It will be their job to identify and capture the animal.
If your cat is up to date with her vaccinations, she maybe will just be given a rabies booster vaccine shot right away. It will be your job to closely monitor her health and attitude. It’s possible she may need to be quarantined for a period of time.
Even if the animal that bit you or your pet had rabies, it’s possible that there was no rabies virus in the saliva or that the saliva didn’t penetrate under the skin.
Rabies is serious.
NOTE: The content in this article is certainly not to be considered professional, medical, health or veterinarian advice. This content is solely for general information purposes only. So be sure to consult with a licensed veterinarian in your state before starting, or deciding to not start, any treatment program.
Got a cat that bites? Get your cat to stop biting you.